Women and the conflict in Colombia
Background – the conflict
The current Colombian armed conflict has existed since approximately 1964 or 1966, which was when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and later the National Liberation Army (ELN) were founded and subsequently started their guerrilla insurgency campaigns against successive Colombian government administrations. It originally began as a backlash produced by a previous conflict known as La Violencia, which had been triggered by the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán.
The subsequent targeting of civilians and public infrastructure by the different armed factions contributed both to the creation of the guerrillas and that of paramilitary groups organized to fight against them. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the spread of both the illegal drug trade, the drug cartels and the U.S.-backed War on Drugs increased the intensity of the conflict and involved all of its participants.
Women and the conflict
Women have suffered the brunt of the conflict, victim to violence and disappearances. According to the Global Justice Center, every two days, a woman dies in Colombia from “political” causes – murder by armed groups, disappearances, illness caused by displacement and malnutrition, and every fourteen days, a Colombian woman falls victim to forced disappearance.
According to a 2004 report published by Women Waging Peace:
- seventeen percent of missing and assassinated political and community activists were women by 2002.
- All rebel and paramilitary groups in Colombia have been reported to rape women and
girls and torture civilians.
- Women have been forced to observe war crimes committed against their sons and
husbands as well as being victimized by executions, mutilations and sexual slavery.
- The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children reported that girls as young as five
have been kidnapped and raped in recent years. The Women’s Commission cites studies stating
that the rate of rape amongst adolescent girls is 2.5 per 1000.
- As many as 45 per cent of FARC ranks may be women and girls as of 2004.http://www.globaljusticecenter.net/projects/colombia/impact.html
The FARC have attempted to employ more female guerrillas, and the situation of women in the camps is poor. The FARC impose strict rules on sexual relationships and forbid pregnancy, which often results in forced contraceptive use and abortions. However, Colombian women have never been represented as a sector at formal negotiations with guerrilla groups with the exception of the 2002 negotiations between the FARC and the Pastrana administration, as one woman participated in the Thematic Commission on behalf of FARC and one woman participated in the Notables Commission.
Women’s human rights campaigners face extreme threats to their security in Colombia as well. On 16 October 2003 activist Esperanza Amaris Miranda was slain in Barrancabermeja. In December 2003, the office of an NGO working with UNHCR to assist displaced women in Bogota was broken into and vandalized. Computers and files were stolen by unidentified armed men from Corporacion Casa de la Mujer.
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